It seems that so many friends are passing away. Ray Rettig, our brother-in-law, passed away after a long bout with MS and cancer. Today I was able to watch a live streaming of his funeral mass in Cincinnati, Ohio. Ray was a good man; he loved the Lord.
Earlier today I attended the mass of a very holy friend, Laura Greey. Nine priests celebrated the funeral mass. It was a great sendoff for a wife, mother, friend, and lover of Christ. Laura used all her gifts to love and serve the Lord. She suffered patiently these last 6 years with cancer.
In the past few weeks we’ve lost other good friends…. Joanne Quense, Steve Fiero, Peter Smith…. wonderful and holy men and women. If I go back several months, the list gets much longer. All were good friends and followers of Jesus Christ.
Over the years I’ve had deep conversations with almost all of those who have died. We spoke about the Lord, about serving him and doing his holy will. We spoke of the trials and temptations of life. We spoke about the four last things….” death, judgement, heaven, hell”. While there was confidence in God’s love and mercy, I think all had a bit of anxiety or nerves knowing that death is the ultimate moment of life where we come to know where we will spend all eternity. I know that I’m a bit nervous.
Well, these wonderful brothers and sisters have experienced this supreme moment. What was it like when they closed their eyes for the last time? What was it like seeing the Lord? We know the great promises of the Lord for those who are faithful…. “Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a little, I will set you over much; enter into the joy of your master.” (Mt. 25:23)
What are they experiencing now? We know it’s beyond what we can imagine. “As it is written, no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him,” (1Cor. 2:9) Wow, I can only imagine.
Yet, we also know that we should pray for these dear friends. We should pray that any further purification that may be needed, would go quickly. The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines purgatory as a “purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven,” which is experienced by those “who die in God’s grace and friendship, but are still imperfectly purified” (CCC 1030).
In the meantime, may the lives of our holy friends who have died cause us to double our efforts to love and serve the Lord. May we use well the time we have left so that one day we may also hear those magnificent words…”well done good and faithful servant, enter in to the joy of your master.” Yes, that will be very good news.